The vendors switch from the farmers’ markets to delivery on the doorstep.
“Off the Hook Essentials fish is very fresh,” said Becky Herbert. “It is very easy to work with and particularly aromatic, it just melts in your mouth.”
And Herbert, owner of Farmhouse Cafe in Hollister, knows her fish. She’s been using Off the Hook Essentials as a delivery agent in her restaurant and Eat with the seasons, on Community supported agriculture Program.
Corina Gitmed, co-owner of Off the hook essentialsworks with Herbert to provide coho salmon, halibut and cod for ready meals served to their customers.
“Corina was one of my customers and she shared her products with me,” said Herbert. “We got together for a farmers market a few years ago and have been working together ever since. Now let’s expand what I’m already doing with food with the seasons. I will provide meals for my program with their fish. And I’ll prepare the meals for Corina’s delivery customers too. “
Fresh halibut. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Gitmed founded Off the Hook Essentials five years ago and was selling fish every week at the Hollister Farmer’s Market before the COVID-19 shutdown.
“I wanted to start a company that would do something that I knew we needed here in town,” said Gitmed. “I grew up in an enthusiastic fishing family and knew that the farmers’ markets would become a real scene here. I noticed that fresh fish wasn’t available – what you got from the store was pretty much everything. I knew there were commercial fishermen in this town who can probably deliver the fish, and anyone can get their hands on some really good stuff. “
After a few stumbling blocks in finding a source for the fish, Gitmed decided on Pacific harvest, a local company serving the San Francisco to Monterey region.
“We ensure that what we receive from them is caught sustainably and sourced locally,” said Gitmed. “We are also in the process of obtaining the permits that will allow us to buy the fish directly from the fishermen on the docks. We want to know who the fishermen are and where they caught the fish. “
Gitmed established itself in the farmers market and started building customers.
“It took a few weeks for people to trust that what I had was good and fresh,” she said. “I would pick it up on the day of the market, which is already filleted and ready. Once people knew they could count on us, we would be sold out. It worked really well. “
The business became so successful that two and a half years ago she hired Sara Spencer as a full partner and expanded her product line.
“It’s become kind of a two-part deal,” said Gitmed. “With Sara, we also started making finishing salts. The two companies combine and it kind of works. “
The salts are intensely fragrant and flavored mixtures of Mediterranean, Himalayan and black and red Hawaiian sea salts with essential oils. Five salts have been offered so far, including citrus fruits with lemon, lime and wild orange, Italian with basil, rosemary and oregano and Thai with ginger, lemongrass and basil.
After the pandemic closed the Hollister Farmer’s Market, Gitmed had to change its sales model to find a way to stay in business.
“We thought at first, ‘Let’s put a pen in it and come back to it when things are open again,'” said Gitmed. “But because we saw no light at the end of the tunnel and there was still demand from our customers, we had to find a way to deliver on site.”
By flash freezing the fish, Gitmed can deliver its products to home throughout San Benito County, as well as Santa Cruz Counties and South Santa Clara Counties.
Becky Herberts Halibut with Parmesan Crust. Photo courtesy of Off the Hook Essentials.
“We have access to a commercial freezer,” said Gitmed. “We’ll pick up the fish and take it to the freezer. We cut it into 1 pound fillets and package it. Flash freezing locks in the taste and quality of the fish. It freezes so quickly that ice crystals do not form and damage the tissue. “
A satisfied customer is Jeanne Alkire, who has been a regular customer for three years.
“My son told me that there are these really interesting people selling fish at the farmers market, so I went to see them,” said Alkire. “After I tried, I started going for something every week.”
Alkire likes the lingcod and halibut but has tried most of the fish Off the Hook offers.
“I always ask her what’s good this week,” she said. “Now that they only make deliveries, I’ll save up and place a large order so we’ll eat fish for a couple of weeks. You only realize how good fresh fish is when you eat fresh fish. There really is no comparison. “
Herbert provided customers with a recipe to try at home.
Becky Herberts Halibut with Parmesan Crust
6 ounces. Halibut fillet
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs (mix with parmesan)
1 beaten egg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Place baby broccoli on a baking sheet
Drizzle some olive oil over it
Add a pinch of pepper and a pinch of Off The Hook Essentials Italian Blend
Put in the oven for 12 minutes
Heat the olive oil in a pan to about medium temperature
Dip halibut in egg and then in panko / parmesan mixture
Put in the pan for about 3 minutes on each side, season with salt and pepper
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